Sen. Carney introduces bill to replace vital funding from Victims of Crime Act

Posted: January 24, 2024 | Judiciary, Senator Carney

LD 2084 would continue to fund programs that support victims of violent crimes, including those impacted by the Lewiston shooting

Sen. Anne Carney speaks at a press conference for LD 2084, “An Act to Provide Funding for Essential Services for Victims of Crimes.”

AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, introduced a bill to replace waning federal funding for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). LD 2084, “An Act to Provide Funding for Essential Services for Victims of Crimes,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

“If you are wondering if this is truly a crisis, the answer is yes. Maine faces a cut of more than 60% to our core VOCA-funded services,” said Sen. Carney, who is the Senate Chair of the committee. “We often hear about improvements or changes that need to be made to systems. We don’t often get to hear about systems that are working. The programs supported by VOCA funding create an incredible network of victim services that are supporting thousands of survivors of violent crime each year in Maine.”

LD 2084 would provide ongoing funding for state programs that are typically supported by VOCA funding, with $6 million budgeted for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

Federal VOCA funding has decreased over the last few years across the country. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which distributes VOCA funds in Maine, had been able to keep local providers whole through a combination of reserved VOCA funds and other federal funds. However, DHHS has indicated it will not be able to keep pace with the decreasing federal funding levels. Maine is projected to receive 60% less funding than it has previously. 

Additionally, a VOCA-funded crisis response played a critical role in the immediate aftermath of the Lewiston shooting in October. The homicide victim services team met with victims, helped family members recover their loved one’s remains and assisted families in accessing funds to help with unexpected funeral expenses. Many needs continue to be supported by Maine’s victim services response network.

“Many of us will be fortunate to never have to think about recovering a loved one’s remains from the medical examiner’s office, or consider the resources available to help pay for an unexpected funeral, all while processing that a loved one has been tragically murdered. But in October, that was the heartbreaking reality of the family members of 18 people we lost in Lewiston,” said Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston. “This bill will ensure that victims, survivors and their families receive essential support while navigating the most difficult moments of their lives. We can’t predict when a tragedy will strike, but when it does, it is our responsibility to provide help to those in need. LD 2084 will do just that.”

“Cuts in VOCA funding at a time when demand for services are increasing will result in drastic  reductions in available services unless this Committee – and the entire Legislature – take action  to fill these funding gaps. All of our New England neighbors have already taken this important  step, and I hope that Maine will follow,” said Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, who co-sponsored the bill.

The largest recipients of VOCA funding Maine are the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Children’s Advocacy Centers and Pine Tree Legal Assistance. VOCA funding also supports court-appointed special advocates in child protective cases in the Judicial Branch, services for elders through Legal Services for the Elderly and the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, and for a variety of crime victims through Victim Witness Advocates at the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Corrections, and in local District Attorney’s offices. 

LD 2084 faces further action in committee.